Turns out billionaire businessman William Koch will have to answer to a lawsuit by a former Oxbow Carbon & Minerals Co. executive who claims he was the victim of false imprisonment at Koch’s ranch outside Aspen, Colorado.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley refused Tuesday to dismiss the lawsuit by Kirby Martensen. And this could be one heck of an interesting tale to hear, if it ever goes to trial.
Corley outlined Martensen’s bizarre saga of being held captive at Koch’s Bear Ranch in 2012 after Koch discovered Martensen had expressed concerns to colleagues in Asia that Koch,72, had a purportedly improper plan to avoid U.S. taxes on company profits of $200 million.
Martensen, of Berkeley, Calif., was an executive at Oxbow Carbon, which sells large amounts of petroleum coke and steam coal throughout Asia. In 2011 Martensen was promoted to Senior Vice President-Asia with OCM international and moved to Singapore.
He said Koch called him and other executives to the Bear Ranch in Colorado, where there was no phone reception, WiFi or Internet access.
Martensen claimed the Colorado meeting turned into an inquiry into an allegations that Martensen was part of an alleged $40 million fraud at Oxbow Carbon & Minerals.
Corley detailed Martensen’s claims that he was grilled by agents of the billionaire, held in a model 19th century western town at the ranch against his will, fired and presented with a lawsuit filed against him in Florida by Koch.
Martensen alleged he was watched over by local sheriffs deputies so he “wouldn’t wander off.” He was ordered to pack his bags and taken to a private Denver airport over 200 miles away – rather than the nearby Aspen airport, where he had a flight reservation.
He was flown, allegedly under guard, to the Oakland, Calif., airport at 4a.m. and allowed to leave, according to Corley.
A local Sheriff’s deputy later said he was hired for a private security job at the ranch the day Martensen was there, according to Corley.
Martensen claims he was falsely imprisoned from the time he was ordered to wait in a cabin with a sheriff’s deputy outside in full view, until his got off the airplane in Oakland.
Corley found that the claimed sequence of events “adequately alleges confinement” sufficient for the case to proceed.
Although Martensen’s suit “does not allege that [Koch] directly participated in the false imprisonment, it includes facts that support an inference that the persons who did perpetrate the tort were acting as defendant’s agents,” Corley said.
She also refused to strike the punitive damage claims by Martensen, making the case potentially expensive as well as interesting.
Koch, is a Florida businessman who made his fortune in energy. His brothers, Charles and David, are best known for financing the Tea Party.
Just last month a Manhattan jury awarded William Koch $12 million in punitive damages and $380,000 as compensation for being sold a dozen bottles of bogus Bordeaux wine.
Case: Martensen v. Koch, No. C-12-5257JSC